NEW ORLEANS - The first time, in 1998, New Orleans police officer Chris Abbott was saved by his bullet-proof vest. The second time, in 2001, Abbott took years to fully recover after he was shot four times, including twice in the head.

Former NOPD commander Marlon Defillo, who responded to the scene of both shootings, said he was shocked to hear that Abbott, a 25-year-veteran of the department, was shot again early Monday morning. Police say Abbott was working a neighborhood security district detail along Jefferson Avenue when someone driving a grey SUV opened fire into Abbott’s car, striking him once in the leg. Police are still trying to develop a suspect.

“I was surprised. I said, ‘Not again,’ ” Defillo said. “My first thought was, ‘Is he going to be OK? This is the third time. And the two previous times I was out there on those scenes, very worried about him. The first time he was shot in Central City. The second time he was shot in the Treme area.”

Despite being thrust in to the news because of the shootings, Abbott is known as much for his work in the community as he is for his on-duty injuries. A longtime community policing officer, he was one of the founders of a program called Cops for Kids, an after-school and summer program in which officers led grade-schoolers in a variety of activities,

A WWL-TV story in 2001 featured Abbott engaged in his off-duty mentoring of children in one of the city’s public housing complexes. Several of the kids offered their thoughts about “Officer Chris.”

“He nice,” one youngster said.

“He's a cool person,” said another young girl.

In his remarks in the 2001 story, Abbott welled up with emotion while talking about the kids.

“I guess I'm a child at heart, too,” Abbott said. “I'm a kid at heart. I love being with them.”

Defillo said Abbott’s work with Cops for Kids was a natural fit. Abbott helped launch the program after he served as one of the first officers to work in a newly formed community policing unit under then-Superintendent Richard Pennington.

“When you talk about a person who's gone above and beyond to work with young people, spending a lot of his own money on young folks to give them a better quality of life, that's Chris Abbott,” Defillo said.

Defillo predicts that Abbott's work on street is not done yet.

“Knowing Chris, he's going to heal, he's going to recover and he's going to get back in the community,” he said.

Officer Abbott was released from the hospital this morning and is expected to make a full recovery.